I have become addicted to the XM satellite radio station Cinemagic. This past Sunday night, they played a tribute to giant-monster movies, featuring selections from all three versions of King Kong, both versions of Godzilla, Gorgo and Cloverfield. While the programmers didn’t include the score of the new movie Big Man Japan (now playing in LA and NYC), what was played served as a perfect musical follow-up to this smart spoof of Japanese entries in the genre.
The brainchild of its talented director-producer-writer-star, Hitosi Matumoto, Big Man Japan is a faux documentary about the fabled ”protector of Japan,” who has more recently fallen on hard times. While he earns a respectable government salary of $5,000 a month (he bluntly states he’d prefer $8,000), the giant monsters that used to threaten Tokyo with regularity just aren’t as powerful or as numerous as they used to be.
We learn that this defender is actually Big Man Japan VI, the latest in a biological line of electrically-enhanced, corporate-sponsored supermen who can grow from normal-sized to 50-feet tall in a matter of minutes. He lives in the shadow of Big Man IV, who was a national hero and had board games, comic books and action figures named for him. It turns out that his once-mighty grandfather is still alive, though living with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home. Grandpa’s condition, however, doesn’t prevent him from occasionally enlarging himself and wreaking havoc on the city.
The reality-style interview sections of the film are broken up by amusing sequences of Big Man VI battling such low-rent beasts as the Strangling Monster, the quite sexually-ambiguous Stink Monster and his/her companion, and the one-legged Leaping Monster. But Big Man Japan may have met his match when a previously unknown, Satan-esque creature appears.
Big Man Japan gets a little long, especially during its ironic and rather bizarre finale, and the joke starts to wear thin, but there is much social commentary to appreciate along the way. Of note is the title hero’s feeling like “a stray,” and his subsequent identification with the homeless cats in his neighborhood. Even giant Japanese superheroes get the blues.
UPDATE: Big Man Japan is now available on DVDfrom Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.